If you’re one of the millions around the world living with anxiety, perhaps you’ve heard the claim that cannabis can help relieve your anxiety symptoms.
The truth is, many people look to cannabis as a treatment option for anxiety. A 2017 national survey published in the Annals of Internal Medicine found that 81% of study participants believed cannabis had one or more health benefits. Nearly 47% believed cannabis could provide “relief from anxiety, stress, and depression.”
As we’ve discussed in the past, others believe the use of cannabis can actually make their anxiety worse.
So, what’s the truth here? Is cannabis good for treating anxiety? Let’s take a closer look at the latest research to get to the bottom of this ongoing debate.
What is THC and CBD?
Before we can truly discuss the question at hand, let’s take a brief moment to review the two active compounds that will dictate cannabis’ potential for treating anxiety: THC and CBD.
THC is the psychoactive compound found in cannabis that will produce a “high.”
CBD is the non-psychoactive compound found in cannabis that can produce a wide variety of therapeutic effects.
How Can Cannabis Help with Anxiety?
People use cannabis to treat the symptoms of their anxiety in many ways. In fact, evidence suggests cannabis has been integrated into aspects of mental health for centuries.
But how can cannabis specifically help us manage our anxiety?
Commonly reported benefits of cannabis use include:
These benefits are rather common and well-known within the cannabis community. From promoting relaxation to increasing your hours of sleep, many look to cannabis as a natural alternative to common, overused prescriptions.
But cannabis can do more than help you sleep or keep you calm. Other users have reported that cannabis can help relieve the symptoms of:
- Social anxiety disorder (SAD)
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Panic disorders
- Sleep disruptions caused by anxiety
These independent reports provide further evidence that cannabis can help treat anxiety, particularly in those suffering from social anxieties. A 2015 review additionally supports the use of CBD when treating anxiety, and some evidence suggests THC may be helpful in low doses. Too much THC, on the other hand, can have the opposite effect.
Can Cannabis Make Anxiety Worse?
While it’s true that cannabis helps some individuals find relief from the many symptoms of anxiety, it can have the opposite effect in others. Some don’t notice a difference, while others notice that their symptoms worsen.
So why does this occur?
Research continues to suggest that cannabis affects everyone differently because we all experience different highs. THC, the active compound in cannabis, plays a large role in this process. High levels of THC have been associated with increased symptoms of anxiety such as an increased heart rate and higher levels of stress.
Additionally, cannabis doesn’t seem to offer the same long-term benefits that can be found when utilizing other anxiety-related treatment options, such as psychotherapy or prescribed medication. Instead, cannabis offers short-term relief, but it’s not a long-term option if you find yourself struggling with ongoing symptoms of anxiety.
While cannabis may seem like the natural cure-all alternative that’s here to make drug companies sweat, it’s important to remember that cannabis plays many pivotal roles when it comes to our mental health. As such, there are some other factors you should take into consideration.
Negative Side Effects of Cannabis
Cannabis is a wonderful plant that provides relief for millions around the world, but like most mind-altering substances, it isn’t perfect. Negative side effects are rare, but may include the following:
- Increased heart rate
- Increased sweating
- Confusion, clouded judgment
- Decreased motivation
- Problems with short-term memory recall
- Increased appetite
Smoking and Vaping
It comes as no surprise that smoking or inhaling any substance that isn’t natural air can irritate your lungs or induce breathing problems. This is especially true in those that suffer from respiratory issues such as COPD or asthma. Fortunately, many cannabis consumption options don’t require you to inhale cannabis as a means of getting high. Topicals, tinctures, and edibles provide relief without potential risk.
Dependence and Addiction
Like sugar, alcohol, and gambling, long-term cannabis use may cause dependence or even addiction. Some cannabis users have a difficult time establishing a line between medical use and daily recreational use.
It’s important to remember that cannabis is a substance that warrants your respect. Just like ice cream, it should only be consumed in moderation and not as a substitute for therapy or prescription medication.
Tips for Safe Use
If you’re looking to use cannabis as a treatment option, there are a few steps you can take to reduce your risk for increased feelings of anxiety.
- Choose Low THC, High CBD Options: If you’re new to cannabis, start with strains or products that contain low doses of THC and higher levels of CBD. Remember, higher levels of THC can make anxiety symptoms worse.
- Start Slow: cannabis use is part of a larger journey; it’s not a sprint to the finish line. Start with a low dose and work your way up if you need more. Be sure to give the cannabis time to activate before going for a second serving.
- Visit a Dispensary: dispensaries are the go-to option for cannabis newbies. Whether you have questions, concerns, or simply want to know more about your options, a knowledgeable budtender is your best friend. Study up on what you need to know before buying legal cannabis, and don’t be afraid to pop into the local dispensary. We’re here to help you.
- Talk to Your Doctor: if you’re still unsure about cannabis, don’t be afraid to speak with your doctor or a licensed healthcare provider. They can help you make decisions based on the many treatment options available.
The Bottom Line
Cannabis, particularly CBD and low doses of THC, offer potential benefits in the ongoing battle against the symptoms of anxiety.
If you decide to try cannabis, keep in mind that it does make anxiety symptoms worse in some individuals. Be sure to take things slow, and remember that a bad high will never last should you experience one. There’s no way to know how cannabis might affect you, so it’s best to use caution and take your time.
Keep in mind that cannabis can be used alongside other alternative treatment options such as yoga, meditation, or breathing exercises. When paired with other natural treatments, cannabis has the ability to reduce the symptoms of anxiety, thus providing you with the relief you deserve.